Connective tissue isn’t a part of anatomy that is often discussed; however, it is such an important part of the human body that it is worth learning some facts about connective tissue. If you have not heard about connective tissue that often, you may wonder why I am saying it is so important. Well, one of the facts about connective tissue is that it is the most abundant tissue in the body! It also provides form and structure. Without connective tissue, your body wouldn’t even closely resemble what it does. There are many different types of connective tissue, and they all serve a slightly different purpose. Yet, as different as they are, all connective tissues are each made of protein and sugars and help you have a healthy, functioning body.
One of the most unique facts about connective tissue is that it can be hard or soft, which brings us to bones. Did you know that your bones are actually a type of connective tissue? Bones are dense connective tissues that provide structure to your body, and unlike many other types of connective tissue bones are highly mineralized. Sixty percent of the bone matrix is primarily composed of calcium and phosphate. The rest of your bones are made up of water and the bone matrix. What is the bone matrix you ask? The bone matrix is made up of proteins and collagen. Collagen is of special interest because it provides strength to bones and helps them not be brittle. It actually gives your bones a certain amount of elasticity and helps prevent fractures. This demonstrates that while minerals are very important for bones, you certainly want to make sure you are getting enough collagen supporting Vitamin C and silica, which can, respectively, be found in red bell peppers and cucumbers.
While bones are an example of dense connective tissue, fat is a great example of loose connective tissue. Adipose tissue, fat, is a connective tissue that is actually essential for your health. However, you don’t want too much adipose tissue, as that can cause health problems. Adipose tissue stores energy in the form of fat. It also provides cushion and insulation for the body. It is primarily located beneath the skin, where it connects skin to your body and provides plumpness to your skin. Without adipose tissue, you would have saggy skin and look very sallow. You can also find some adipose tissue around organs. Next time you think about fat, remember that it is adipose tissue that your body needs.
Myofascial tissue is yet another type of connective tissue. It protects and supports muscles and bones. Demonstrating just how protective and supportive myofascial tissue is, this special tissue has a tensile strength of 2000 pounds! Like many connective tissues, myofascial tissue is made of collagen and elastin fibers that are suspended in a fluid substance. Myofascial tissue is very pliable and soft when it is healthy. However, it can become tight and rigid, which leads to pain and problems such as fibromyalgia, which affects myofascial tissue. To keep myofascial tissue healthy, hydration is very important.
Believe it or not, blood is a specialized fluid connective tissue! It is considered a connective tissue, in part, because it connects the body systems together. Every tissue in the body needs a healthy blood supply. Blood is composed of white blood cells, red blood cells, and plasma. It transports nutrients, waste, and even hormones throughout the body. It also regulates pH, temperature, and fights invaders. Even though blood is an unusual type of connective tissue, it is certainly a very important connective tissue.
As mentioned previously, collagen is an essential component of connective tissue. Loose connective tissues have less collagen, and dense connective tissues have more collagen. You can find collagen in many places throughout the body, including tendons, ligaments, bone, and skin. While Vitamin C and silica stimulate collagen production, amino acids are needed to build collagen. Specifically, the amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine are required to form collagen. These amino acids are found in protein and can be obtained by consuming either plant or animal forms of protein. Since protein is so essential to collagen, you won’t be surprised to learn that collagen makes up 30 percent of the protein found in your body.
Like any body part, healthy connective tissue requires nutrients. I have already mentioned Vitamin C, silica, and protein as necessary nutrients for collagen, but Vitamin E is another nutrient that you must consume to keep all of your connective tissues healthy. A fat soluble vitamin, Vitamin E improves the production of collagen, repairs and strengthens connective tissue, and helps prevent damage by acting as an antioxidant. You can find Vitamin E in sunflower seeds, asparagus, avocados, and kale. In addition to Vitamin E, you also need zinc and copper. Zinc increases collagen production and prevents connective tissue degradation caused by bacteria and viruses, while copper increases the strength of connective tissue and produces elastin, another component of connective tissue. To make sure you get plenty of zinc, eat foods such as pumpkin seeds, lentils, and mushrooms. For copper, you will want to consume almonds, potatoes, and soybeans. One word of caution about copper, you should never supplement with it because it is very easy to overdose.
Just like any other body part, connective tissue is susceptible to diseases. Some of these diseases are inherited, such as Epidermolysis bullosa, which causes skin to be very fragile. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is another inherited connective tissue disorder. It causes over flexible joints and stretchy skin, and can be mild or severe. Not all connective tissue diseases are inherited. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, polymyositis, and dermatomyositis all cause the immune system to mistakenly attack various connective tissues leading to inflammation that can be very damaging. These are only a few of the connective tissue diseases; there are many more with each ranging in severity.
There is so much to know about the different kinds of connective tissues and how to maintain healthy connective tissue. In truth, this article only touches the surface of what you can learn about connective tissues, which makes sense considering it is the most abundant tissue in the body. However, I hope you will at least walk away from reading this knowing that healthy connective tissue is vital for health. What do you do to keep you connective tissues healthy?
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